In the last few years’ employee engagement has really become a ‘buzz word’ in many HR departments and businesses. Whilst it’s been admirable that awareness of engagement in the workplace has never been so strong, it is now time that businesses really get to grips with it and start seeing engagement as part of the business’s DNA. In 2014 we’ll see a shift in HR pushing staff engagement further up the agenda and making it intrinsic with the overall business strategy; for too long it has been a side project, now it is essential engagement becomes a part of the company’s development plans.

Link engagement to key business metrics

Another reason why employee engagement will shift up the priority list in the boardroom will be the link between staff engagement metrics with key business metrics. As with all business disciplines once the board can recognise the power and effects engagement can have upon a business the more it will be absorbed into the business’s philosophy. Also, by better understanding how employee engagement impacts the bottom line it will also help convince the board to pour more resources into supporting further employee engagement practises.
Key to the success of any employee engagement campaign is the ability of the board to listen and act upon their staff’s feedback. As the success stories of engagement spread throughout the business world more and more CEOs will start to not just talk the talk but also walk the walk.

Don’t allow your talent to drain

As the UK economy continues to grow, HR will need to engage top talent throughout 2014 to ensure the brain drain doesn’t occur in their company. History is a great teacher, and in the past high achievers have always been the first group to search for fresh opportunities after a recession. HR must engage with this group and create specialist strategies to keep their most talented resource at their workplace.

The squeezed middle issue

A common issue to come out of a lot of staff surveys in the pressure felt by middle managers; this ‘squeezed middle’ receives pressure from the top down and the bottom up. Companies that invest in training and supporting middle management to engage their teams effectively will do well, rather than the ones whom simply promote staff for their length of service or technical expertise. Create a culture too where middle management can confidently feedback honestly to the board their successes and concerns to create a transparent view of how strategies are effecting the business.

Avoid cynicism

My best advice for 2014 would be to stop calling your staff engagement programme anything to do with engagement. Many staff have become very aware of employee engagement after reading about how they can make them more productive and help boost a company’s profitability so be careful how you position it with your workforce.
Get creative about how you get feedback from your people – use your managers and leaders, encourage conversations throughout your organisation. Feedback can be gathered in a multitude of ways from structured employee surveys to focus groups and one-to-one discussions. In addition, you can use the latest in internal social media technology, such as Yammer to encourage conversations and cross working.
It’s still essential that you listen to your staff and act upon their feedback but be smart on how you present it to employees. Regardless of how you get feedback from your people – one thing is for sure, if you don’t communicate the feedback and, more importantly, take action (ideally positive!) as a result of the feedback, you will drive cynicism through your organisation.
Before you solicit feedback, ask yourself are you prepared for what your people will tell you – what are you going to do if the feedback is negative – are you in a position to make changes on the subject you are seeking feedback on? Be smart and sensible about what you ask for feedback on and be open and honest with the feedback.

Top trends for 2014:

  • Engagement to become part of organisation’s DNA.
  • Shift in linking engagement metrics with key business metrics.
  • Engage top talent to ensure they don’t jump ship.
  • Support the ‘squeezed middle’ to ensure your business in ship shape.
  • Stop talking about engagement!

Gary Cattermole is Director of leading employee survey provider,

Gary Cattermole, Biography - Gary's initial grounding was in the areas of sales and marketing, in the mid nineties he joined Longman Software Publishing to head up the business development of SURVEYkits (the worlds first employee opinion survey toolkit). After spearheading its growth over an 18 month period, Gary joined EMPLOYeSURVEYS, the original developers of SURVEYkits, helping to establish EMPLOYeSURVEYS as a leading provider of employee surveys.
Following its successful growth, in 2006 employesurvey was bought by a leading consultancy group.

He has managed numerous employee research projects for a variety of organisations. He is a partner at The Survey Initiative (and enjoys sports, in particular table tennis and football).